A Look at Two Mobile Apps for Saxophone Players
It’s true what they’re saying. Everything’s gone mobile. Even if you’ve got the niftiest and most powerful smartphone on the market sitting in your hands, give it a year or two, and that phone will seem like a relic from the distant past.
In keeping with the spirit of mobile innovation, world-renown saxophone recording artist and long-time Berklee College of Music educator, Walter Beasley is among the very first to take his teaching mobile.
When I first heard about the two iPhone apps Walter put created, one called Saxophone Sound Production, and another called Circular Breathing, I assumed that they were going to be vey fancy software apps with audio processing and all kinds of wizardry to monitor tone production (although I have no idea how something like that would be saxophone-specific, but I digress…).
Another Way to Use the App Store to Publish Educational Content
As it turns out, these apps aren’t don’t really function in the same way that mobile software applications like you’d find in the Apple App store do. These apps basically serve as instructional DVDs – minus the DVDs and the DVD player. Like a DVD, these apps have an intro as soon as you start them up, and then take you to a menu with individual lessons listed for you to choose from. In fact, the content on both of these apps is also available in regular digital video format (mp4) which can be played on your personal computer or iPod.
Although I would have never thought about it myself, this actually makes for a very useful method of delivering content. Without putting these videos into an app format, you’d have to download individual video files (such as those in .mp4 ir .mov format) and then access them using the iPhone video player. You wouldn’t have the nice interface of the menus to easily skip between videos, so I can certainly see why using an app as a means of delivering video content for a wide variety of purposes.
At the moment, these apps are for iPhone only, but since we’re only talking about video content here, I would think that this would be relatively easy to adapt for Android, so hopefully we’ll see that in the near future.
I also want to point out that there is a also good amount of biographical information and even self-promotion in the apps, but they do not get in the way of being able to make use of the lessons.
So now that we know what these apps basically are, let’s dig into the content.
Sound Production for Saxophone
This app consists of a series of short videos on the topic of embouchure, long tones, pitch, and breathing. The lessons are expressed very clearly and seem to be geared towards students at the beginning to intermediate level, although professionals can always benefit by brushing up on the fundamentals.
Walter’s approach to embouchure is a bit different than what I’ve been taught, as he recommends playing with the lower lip rolled in. If that happens to be a different approach than what you may have already been taught, then you will either find yourself disagreeing, or maybe even gaining some new insights which you can put into practice.
One thing that I would have liked to see in this collection of videos is the study of overtones and voicing, which I personally find to be crucial elements in the development of one’s tone, so perhaps lessons on those topic can be added in future versions.
As an example of some of the helpful visual demonstrations, in one video, Walter demonstrates proper breathing by laying on the ground with a book sitting on his abdomen, demonstrating the physical movements in necessary for proper breathing. In other videos, he brings in actual saxophone students to provide a true private lesson experience for viewers.
All told, I thought that Walter did a very good job of providing actionable information in an engaging manner.
The price for this app is $3.99, which in my opinion makes this quite a value when you consider that the mp4 version of this video series is priced at $17. .
Just like Sound Production for Saxophone, Circular Breathing is a series of short videos taking the viewer though a step-by-step process of learning how to breath circularly. The majority of the videos do not show Walter with a saxophone, as he really breaks down the physicality of circular breathing in great detail. What I love about this app is that due to the fact that it’s a concentrated chunk of information on one single topic, you can really dive deep into the topic and come out with a very powerful new skill.
At $1.99, this makes for a truly great value. I mean, just think – latte at Starbucks, or the ability to circular breathe…?”
Regardless of whether you end up loving these apps, considering the amount of information you’re getting, I’d say that these apps are an incredible value. If you only get only one valuable takeaway from these collections of videos, then your money has been very well spent. The cool thing is that anytime you have a free moment throughout your day (for example, in line at the bank or in a doctor’s waiting room), you can throw on some earbuds and take a sax lesson right then and there.
It’s very exciting to think that we live in a time where musicians have nearly unlimited access to the “inside information” that would have otherwise taken years to glean via in-person lessons, music classes, and simple osmosis. It’s no coincidence that the level of student musicianship seems to keep getting higher and higher. Walter Beasley’s iPhone apps are a solid step towards keeping that trend going.
For more information on Walter and his other products, visit www.WalterBeasley.com.
February 13, 2012 @ 9:03 am
Are these available on other platforms too (I’m on Android and Windows Phone)?
While I’m here, I should also give an honorable mention to iRealB. It’s an open-format fakebook platform, where you can download chord charts submitted by other community members, or write your own. The software can then transpose them to any key, and play a backing track at any tempo in any of about 15 styles. Great for practising improvising…
February 13, 2012 @ 8:52 pm
Unfortunately at this time these apps are only available for iPhone. But that real book app sounds amazing – will have to try it soon, since I really have only a few play along albums that I enjoy playing with.
February 13, 2012 @ 9:51 am
Do you know already iRealB ?
(the only reason for me to purchase an iphone)
here I also collected some other good apps:
February 13, 2012 @ 8:56 pm
Yeah, Andrew in the comment before you actually brought up iRealB. Sounds like a great app, will probably download it soon. But I love the list of apps you have on your site, especially the one for slowing down audio. It’s amazing how conveniently and inexpensively we can get access to tools and information that would have been so difficult to get just 5 years ago.
February 16, 2012 @ 8:47 pm
I am glad I happened on to this. I believe it will be useful and a great tool ,but also entertaining. Thank You.
February 16, 2012 @ 8:51 pm
Always glad to introduce folks to cool new stuff!